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February 9, 2009

Tim Thomas

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to our call. With us we have Boston Bruins goaltender, Tim Thomas. Thanks to Tim for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Matt Chmura of the Bruins public relations department for arranging this call.
Tim has posted a record of 24‑5‑5 in 34 appearances for the Bruins so far this season. His record is second among NHL goalies at 2.10, trailing only Columbus's Steve Mason, who has posted a goals‑against‑average of 2.09. He leads the NHL with a .932 save percentage and has posted three shutouts with 85 points on a record of 39‑8‑7.
The first place overall Bruins will host the Western Conference‑leading San Jose Sharks at 7:00 PM Eastern time tomorrow on VERSUS in the United States and on TSN in Canada. Thanks again to Tim for joining us to answer your questions.

Q. Is this a game you've had on your calendar for a while?
TIM THOMAS: You know, from the inside, we've had a stretch here where we've been playing the top teams in the Eastern Conference knowing that San Jose was coming up. So every team is a tough team at this time of the year.
And did I knew it was coming up? Yes; basically only because the media keeps telling me.

Q. What do you see as your challenges facing San Jose?
TIM THOMAS: Well, as a team, our challenge, coming off an overtime loss Saturday, is to bounce back strong and show our character and come up with a good effort for tomorrow night. Knowing that they are the No.†1 team in the West Coast conference, it's not going to be easy.
You know, you only get to play these teams very rarely. This is the only opportunity this year. So, you know, I will have to go along with the media, that it is another measuring stick, but one of many throughout the year, though.

Q. A couple of questions. One, how will you handle not having Michael Ryder, who has got a broken facial bone, he's played much better certainly this year than he did last year. The other question I have for you, you've played only like 34 games, and obviously there's been a lot of wear and tear on your body, and yet this season is two‑thirds done. Can you talk about that, having another goaltender to playoff, as opposed to having to play every game?
TIM THOMAS: Well, first of all, Michael Ryder is going to be a big loss, because he's been important to us this year. I'm not sure on the stats, but I think he has 19 goals and seven game‑winners. So that tells you the†‑‑ the seven game‑winners tells you how important he's been to our team. So, that is a loss. Hopefully he can get back as soon as possible.
But every time we've had an injury this year, we've had other guys that have stepped up, and they are given more responsibility and they have responded well.
So, you know, whoever gets a chance to take Michael Ryder's ice time, so to speak, I expect them to take advantage of it, like everyone else has done this year.
As far as only having played 34 games, yeah, it's been a little bit different than previous years for me. I've played a lot of games over the past three years, and it's definitely†‑‑ I definitely believe that it helps keep you fresher. I know, you know, I read articles, talking about how most goalies want to play a lot, and I do, too, don't get me wrong.
But having said that, I respect the coach's decision and the playing time this year, because it has paid off, at least up to this point of the year. It doesn't feel like a normal February to me. It feels like, you know, a December, just because of the lack of wear and tear.

Q. And will that be beneficial once the playoffs start? I know often the media blow it out of proportion, saying a goalie gets burned out if he's playing 65 or 70 games in the playoffs, if his team happens to lose, but obviously you'll have a lot left in the tank when April rolls around.
TIM THOMAS: Yeah, you know, goalies†‑‑ it's a human body. I think that's the plan is for it to pay off towards the playoffs.
I personally am I believer that you cannot play 65 or 70 games and be at 100% in the playoffs, or at least for a long run in the playoffs. That's just my opinion. If you look at history, Cam Ward, the year that they won the Cup, (Martin) Gerber played the majority of the games that year. So Cam Ward was fresh going into the playoffs. When he made his run in Calgary, he spent most of the year, first half of the year on the bench in San Jose, so he had not played a lot of games.
Obviously you can look at other stats, and Marty Brodeur has been able to excel with the long runs. So it's not a set rule. But last year, Osgood only played half the games before going into the playoffs. So there's an argument to be made that keeping your goalie fresh will pay off in the long run.
I think with the new NHL, I think each game takes more energy than it used to compared to the old NHL, just because of the style of play. So in my personal opinion, I think the days of goalies playing 70 games should be over.

Q. Well, they would be if they were not paying the goalies $7 million like they are paying some of them.
TIM THOMAS: Well, I've never had to worry about that. (Laughing).

Q. I just wanted to ask, with what sitting on the bench and being passed over for a number of years can do to a goalie's psyche, how did you deal with the lack of opportunities kind of earlier on in your career?
TIM THOMAS: Well, one thing is I was never really sitting on the bench. Even though I was not in the NHL, wherever I was at in the minors or Finland, I was getting plenty of playing time. In the long run, that helped with my experience as far as being in just about every game situation imaginable that you can think of.
But it also made it easier to deal with the fact that maybe you were not getting your chance, because you were just busy doing your job wherever you are at. So I did not spend a lot of time dwelling on it while I was playing.
There were times in the summers where you would start to think about it: When I had a good year in the minors. Am I finally going to get my chance next year? But by the time you get through camp and realize you are not getting your chance, you are sent to the minors or going to Europe, and you start playing the games and you don't dwell on it that much.
I think you have to keep belief in yourself no matter what, even if you are to the getting your chance or you are sent down to the minors. But it's easier to do if you are playing, and playing well, no matter what level you are at.

Q. You're one of the few goalies having a very strong year this year. Henrik Lundqvist is also playing very well, once again, this season. Can you just give me your take from the goalie's point of view on what makes him so successful?
TIM THOMAS: Well, he's a little bit different case than myself, as far as he's a larger goalie that plays a totally different style than me, but his style is effective. He's kind of more of a blocker than a saver, so to speak, but that can be helpful if you're big enough to play that style of game. And I think that's part of his consistency over the past few years.

Q. I wanted to ask you a question about your technique specifically. You just mentioned Henrik Lundqvist being different from yourself, but you are obviously not a classic butterfly‑type goalie, and you are not a stand‑up‑type goalie either. I wanted to ask you what insights you could give on how a majority of the goalies who do play butterfly, what type of strain that might put on their hips or their knees or their groins by playing that style, and how your style may be different from that or how it may help with either longevity or lack of injuries or anything like that.
TIM THOMAS: It's hard for me to speak on how much stress is putting on their bodies because I've never really played that style, like you said; at least not exactly.
I think it's an individual basis. Some people get unlucky getting injuries, or sometimes it is something in their technique that is making them get injured.
But it's kind of like, I think every individual or every goalie has to find their own style, what works for them best, and not just totally rely on technique, because, I mean, if you're teaching†‑‑ I see young goalies nowadays at some hockey schools, and they are being taught totally the butterfly technique only; to go down and keep your shoulders up and keep your hands down.. And that might work for the kids that end up being 6'2, but what about the kid whose full height only ends up being 5'8 or 5'9? If they don't learn to play a different style, they are not going to be successful at the higher levels.
I don't know if it has anything to do with wear and tear on the knees and hips and stuff. I can't really speak for that. But look at Marty Brodeur. He doesn't have a classic style, and up until this year, he's been incredibly healthy, and even when he did get an injury, it was a bicep of all things.

Q. A lot of people have been talking about how your game may or may not have changed from last year. Have you, first of all, made an effort in the off‑season to quiet down your game and rely less on reflexes and more on positioning? And also, do you think it's possible for a true sort of old‑school stand‑up goalie to exist in the NHL? Do you think that kind of a goalie could thrive in this type of a league?
TIM THOMAS: For the first part of your question, like I made no major adjustment since last year. I've worked on little things with Bob Essensa, but they are relatively minor. I think a lot of†‑‑ if I looked a different this year than I did last year, I think a lot of it is just team related and we are playing better defense and you don't have to make as many strong saves.
To the second part of the question†‑‑ what was the second part of the question?

Q. If you think a traditional, stand‑up style goalie could thrive in the NHL today.
TIM THOMAS: No, I don't think†‑‑ I don't think that's possible. Just you've got to get down and cover the lower part of the net through screens and tips. You don't have time to react. I don't think a complete stand‑up style or whatever would work anymore.
I think obviously there can be a hybrid, so to speak, where they came up with, like Marty Brodeur or, you know, a bit†‑‑ myself. Every goalie has got a different style. I think if you take the butterfly, what is (Evgeni) Nabokov? Do you want to call Nabokov a complete butterfly goalie? From what I see watching him on TV, yes, he does butterfly but not in the classic way with your legs spread out. (Jean-Sebastien) Giguere is a butterfly goalie, but his butterfly is different from anybody else's in the leagues. It's hard to†‑‑

Q. You've got to do what's best for your only personal body type, I guess is what you're saying.
TIM THOMAS: Exactly. Use your strength.

Q. Houston (ph) told me that you are the only player that gave back a signing bonus to go to Europe. And the other question I have, you didn't really say; what is your style? Obviously you block a ton of shots. Is it a style? I used to watch Hasek play, and nobody could figure out his style, and he blocked a million shots.
TIM THOMAS: Well, to the first part of your question, that was†‑‑ not really the question, but the statement by Houston. That was a situation of wanting to get playing time. That was the one year, actually, where I wasn't getting playing time up to that point.
And so that was a tough decision that was made. And looking back, you never know if it was the right decision or not. In the long run, it seems to have worked out. But I had many years where I wondered if I made the right decision or not there.
To the second part, what my style is, I'd have to†‑‑ in my mind, I look just like everyone else. I'd have to say it actually leans towards the butterfly style.
I think overall, maybe I'm a little bit more patient before I do that butterfly, and if guys end up shooting up high, I don't butterfly unless I have to, so to speak.
But even my style, it's constantly evolving, depending on the situation, where I'm getting scored on recently. I try not to keep†‑‑ I try not to†‑‑ if I'm getting scored on in one area, I try not to let that happen too long. I might, by covering that, it might make an opening somewhere else so the shooters have to figure out where that is. And I just try to be kind of unpredictable.
I think that's necessary. If you become predictable in this game, especially at this level, somebody is going to figure it out.

Q. Is that why you think Hasek was so successful; he was unpredictable?
TIM THOMAS: I think so.. I think that's part of it. And part of it, I think he was just a great athlete with great hand‑eye coordination and could read the play almost in advance. Like if you look at some of Hasek's saves later on in his career, if you actually watch them, it seems like he's in a spot for the save like two seconds before the puck even gets there. He was very good at anticipation.

Q. I know when you first were starting to get a shot in the NHL, you were looking over your shoulder, it seems like teams were bringing in younger goalies who supposedly were the future of that franchise. Have you got to the point where you are pretty comfortable and not necessarily looking over your shoulder at who they are bringing in, and at your age, do you still feel like you have a lot of years left?
TIM THOMAS: Well, as far as the young guys, I don't know. Well, they have†‑‑ two car /RAS Ken back, and I know he's going to be a good goalie someday, and he's already a good goalie, but is the NHL ready? That's a question management has to decide, not me.
But I've never really†‑‑ I was never really looking over my shoulder anywhere I was at, no matter what my age. I was more concentrating on trying to do the best I can do. And I still think that's the mind‑set, is, you know, people†‑‑ when you have other goalies on your team, like the media will ask questions about, is there competition. And I've never looked at it as a competition with the other goalies. The competition has always been with myself.
But as far as how many†‑‑ how much longer I'll keep playing and how long can I keep playing at such a high level, that answer remains to be seen, you know. I'll take it year‑by‑year. I'm going to play†‑‑ or at least I plan on playing as long as I possibly can. I love the game. I don't feel†‑‑ I don't know what a 34‑year‑old is supposed to feel like, but I don't feel 34 if it's supposed to feel bad. I feel pretty much the same way I did when I was 27.
So, I don't know. We'll see. I know whenever I talk to people from Finland (ph), they keep asking if I'm going to come back and play for the Jokerit (ph) one day, but I don't think that's going to happen though.
DAVID KEON: Thanks very much, Tim, for your time today.

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